WASHINGTON, May 1 (Xinhua) -- NASA has selected three U.S. companies to design and develop human landing systems for the agency's Artemis program, one of which will land the first woman and next man on the surface of the moon by 2024.
The three companies are Blue Origin of Kent, Washington; Dynetics of Huntsville, Alabama; and SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, according to a release of the agency on Thursday night.
The human landing system awards are firm-fixed price, milestone-based contracts, and the total combined value for all awarded contracts is 967 million U.S. dollars for the 10-month base period, the release said.
"With these contract awards, America is moving forward with the final step needed to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024, including the incredible moment when we will see the first woman set foot on the lunar surface," said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
"This is the first time since the Apollo era that NASA has direct funding for a human landing system, and now we have companies on contract to do the work for the Artemis program," he said.
NASA's commercial partners will refine their lander concepts through the contract base period ending in February 2021. During that time, the agency will evaluate which of the contractors will perform initial demonstration missions.
NASA will later select firms for development and maturation of sustainable lander systems followed by sustainable demonstration missions. NASA intends to procure transportation to the lunar surface as commercial space transportation services after these demonstrations are complete, according to the release.
Charged with returning to the moon in the next four years, NASA's Artemis program will reveal new knowledge about the moon, Earth, and the origins in the solar system.
The human landing system is a vital part of NASA's deep space exploration plans, along with the Space Launch System rocket, Orion spacecraft, and Gateway.